Rosie Ruiz Vivas (born 1953, Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban American who was declared the winner in the female category for the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980, only to have her title stripped after it was discovered that she had not run the entire course.
Ruiz was born in Cuba and moved to Miami with her family in 1962. She moved to New York City in the early 1970s, eventually finding work with Metal Traders, a commodities firm. In 1979, she qualified for the New York City Marathon and was credited with a time of 2:56:29, the 11th woman overall—enough to qualify her for the Boston Marathon.
On April 21, 1980 Ruiz appeared to win the Boston Marathon's female category with a time of 2:31:56. Her time would have been the fastest female time in Boston Marathon history as well as the third-fastest female time ever recorded in any marathon. However, suspicions mounted about Ruiz almost from the beginning. Men's winner Bill Rodgers, who had just won his third straight Boston Marathon, noticed that Ruiz could not recall many things that most runners know by heart, such as intervals and splits. Other observers noticed that Ruiz was not panting or coated in sweat, and her thighs were much flabbier and fatter than would be expected for a world-class runner. She later released stress-test results showing her resting heart rate as 76. Most female marathoners have a resting heart rate in the 50s or lower.
In addition, her time of 2:31:56 was an unusual improvement, more than 25 minutes ahead of her reported time in the New York City Marathon six months earlier. When asked by a reporter why she did not seem fatigued after the grueling race, she said, "I got up with a lot of energy this morning." Some female competitors thought it was odd that, when asked what she had noticed about Wellesley, Mass., while running through it, she did not mention the students of Wellesley College, who traditionally cheer loudly for the first female runners as they pass the campus. Most seriously, no one could recall seeing her. Jacqueline Gareau was told that she was leading the race with 18 miles to go, while Patti Lyons was told she was second at the 17-mile mark. Ruiz could not have passed either of them without being seen. Several spotters at checkpoints throughout the course did not remember seeing her in the first group of females. She also did not appear in any pictures or video footage.
The most damning evidence against Ruiz surfaced when two Harvard students, John Faulkner and Sarah Mahoney, recalled seeing Ruiz burst out of a crowd of spectators on Commonwealth Avenue, half a mile from the finish. Not long after that, freelance photographer Susan Morrow reported meeting her on the subway during the New York Marathon and accompanying her from the subway to the race. She lost touch with Ruiz after that, but came forward when the news of Ruiz's dubious Boston win broke. According to Morrow, she met Ruiz on the subway and together they walked a distance to the finishing area, where Ruiz identified herself as an injured runner. She was escorted to a first aid station and volunteers marked her down as having completed the marathon, thus qualifying her for the Boston Marathon.
New York Marathon officials launched an investigation and could not find any sign of Ruiz near the finish line. Based on this and other evidence, New York Marathon director Fred Lebow disqualified Ruiz from the 1979 race, saying she could not possibly have run the entire course. Later that week, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) disqualified Ruiz. While Lebow's action seemed to have automatically disqualified Ruiz from Boston as well, Boston officials wanted to do their own investigation before taking action. Canadian Gareau was declared the female winner, with a time of 2:34:28 (at the time, the fastest-ever recorded by a female in the event's history). Lyons was moved up to second; her time of 2:35:08 was the fastest ever recorded for an American female in a marathon.
On the Thursday after the Monday marathon, BAA arranged for Gareau to fly to Boston, where BAA staged a finish line with 3,000 spectators at 2:34 PM so that photos could be taken with Gareau breaking the tape. Gareau was awarded a winner's medal at a press conference that Thursday.
As a result of the scandal, the Boston Marathon and several other races instituted a number of safeguards against cheating. These include extensive video surveillance and the transponder timing RFID system that monitors electronically when runners arrive at various checkpoints on the course. These techniques have been used to identify other would-be cheaters, notably "Jean's Marines", a group of charity runners who were caught cutting the course during the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon.
In 1982, Ruiz was arrested for embezzling $60,000 from a real estate company where she worked. She spent one week in jail and was sentenced to five years' probation. She then moved back to southern Florida, only to be arrested in 1983 for her involvement in a cocaine deal. She was sentenced to three years probation. At last report, she was working in West Palm Beach as a client representative for a medical laboratory company. As of the year 2000, she still maintained that she ran the entire 1980 Boston Marathon.
- Scorecard. Sports Illustrated, May 5, 1980.
- Burt, Bill. Rosie's Run. The Eagle-Tribune, April 16, 2000.
- Mass Moments: Rosie Ruiz Steals Boston Marathon. Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, April 21, 2006.
- Rosie Ruiz wins the Boston Marathon at Museum of Hoaxes
- Moore, Kenny. Mastery and Mystery. Sports Illustrated, April 28, 1980.
- Kidd, Patrick (August 22, 2007). "The top 50 sporting scandals". The Times (London). Archived from the original on July 26, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Rosie Ruiz Tries To Steal the Boston Marathon. Running Times, July 1, 1980.
- "The scam: It's been 25 years since Rosie Ruiz failed to fool the world". Boston Herald. April 15, 2005.
- Hornus, Tony (April 24, 1982). "The Boston Marathon: One of Kind Event". Arguss-Press (Owosso, Michigan). Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- "Whatever happened to Rosie Ruiz?". Toledo Blade. AP. April 19, 1993. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- "Rosie Ruiz arrested for cocaine dealing". Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). AP. November 19, 1983. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- "Rosie Ruiz Says She'll Run Again". AP. April 20, 1998. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- YouTube Video of Rosie Ruiz in 1980 Boston Marathon
- Rosie Ruiz : fausse marathonienne, YouTube Video (French; 7:50 min)